In the recent debate - and news coverage - about the current heavy goods vehicle driver shortage that has led to fuel shortages and queues at UK petrol stations, there has been little mention of one possible solution – increasing the number of women working in the transport logistics sector.
Industry lobby group Women in Transport believe that overlooking half of the population as candidates to fill vital roles is a big mistake and more needs to be done to improve the transport sector’s image problem to attract more women into the haulage industry.
Women in Transport president Jo Field said: “In the past few weeks we have seen the impact of a shortage of heavy goods vehicle drivers. The crisis originally affected our food supplies and in the past few days we’ve seen the same issue with petrol, causing turmoil across the country. The problem is a simple one, we don’t have enough drivers to transport our goods. To tackle this issue, we need to attract more workers into the haulage industry.
“While the measures recently announced by the government are welcome, a solution that isn’t being talked about is attracting more women into the freight industry to fill the current shortage. The latest figures from Logistics UK show that less than 1% of HGV drivers are women. This makes it one of the most male dominated professions in existence.”
Field said that more women would be prepared to work in the sector but first the industry needed to address an image problem which is deterring females from becoming HGV drivers and taking up other roles.
“There are a huge number of potential drivers waiting to fill our lorries but aren’t doing so because of the transport industry’s image problem. This is an issue which came up in our research on gender perceptions and experiences working in transport, published earlier this year.
“While the barriers that are stopping women entering the profession require further investigation, it is clear that if recruitment efforts are focused on only half of the population, the chances of successfully finding drivers to transport our essential goods are greatly reduced,” Field said.
Meanwhile, business group Logistics UK has slammed the prime minister for suggesting that the supply chain issues currently being experienced in the UK are the fault of the haulage and logistics industry. Logistics UK CEO David Wells said: “To suggest that the current issues being experienced in the supply chain are the fault of the very industry which has kept the country supplied with everything it needs throughout the pandemic is, quite frankly wrong.
“The government is well aware that that there are two recent shocks to the system which have created the current problems: 19,000 HGV drivers leaving the UK because of Covid and Brexit and the DVSA’s decision to stop the testing of 45,000 new HGV drivers during the pandemic. Rather than trying to shift the blame for the current situation onto industry, we need government to redouble its efforts to provide assistance in those areas it can control.
“The first positive step would be to extend the number and duration of temporary visas recently made available to EU drivers, to enable them to ease the current pressures on the supply chain and provide enough time for the backlog of driving tests to be worked through so that UK residents can qualify as drivers. This is not uncontrolled immigration; it is a pragmatic solution to the current economic needs."